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Extracts from the Journals relating to Children, Youth and Families - in the fields of health, substance abuse, education, psychology, science ...

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30 APRIL

USA

Studies take closer look at mental health challenges for LGBTQ youth

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth may be more likely than their heterosexual and gender-conforming peers to experience abuse, bullying and mental health problems, three U.S. studies suggest.

While plenty of previous research has documented a variety of psychological issues that can be more common among LGBTQ children and teens, these new studies published April 16 in Pediatrics offer fresh insight into the types of challenges these youth encounter that may negatively impact their mental and physical health.

One of the studies done in California and Georgia examined medical records for 1,333 transgender and gender-nonconforming children and teens and for more than 13,000 youth whose outward gender presentation matched their sex assigned at birth.

“In nearly all instances, mental health diagnoses were more common for transgender and gender-nonconforming youth than for youth who identify with the gender assigned at birth, also known as cisgender youth,” said lead study author Tracy Becerra-Culqui of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena.

Transgender and gender-nonconforming children and teens were three to 13 times more likely to be diagnosed with conditions like depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorders than cisgender youth, the study found. They also had a much higher risk of suicidal thoughts and self-inflicted injuries than cisgender children and teens.

A second study examined survey data from almost 82,000 high school students in Minnesota and found LGBTQ adolescents were more likely to experience abuse and victimization than heterosexual teens.

While the majority of youth didn’t experience any abuse, bullying or victimization, LGBTQ youth in the study were still more likely to be victims of these behaviors and more apt to experience multiple forms of bullying, abuse, victimization or mistreatment, the study found. LGBTQ teens also tended to experience more severe forms of torment than heterosexual adolescents.

“The more gender nonconformity an adolescent reports, the higher their risk of experiencing abuse,” study author Laura Baams of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands said by email.

For the third study, researchers examined survey data from 2,396 teens and young adults and found lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning youth were more likely to experience depression than their heterosexual peers.

The increased risk of depression may be explained in part by lower satisfaction with family relationships, greater exposure to cyberbullying and peer victimization, and more unmet medical needs, the study found.

“We know that LGBQ teens face discrimination because of their sexual orientation. In addition they may experience problems with family acceptance and more frequent bullying from peers,” said lead author Jeremy Luk of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Rockville, Maryland.

“All of these factors are known risks for mental health problems,” Luk said by email. “Our study identified two additional sources of risk – victimization in cyberspace and unmet medical needs.”

None of the studies were controlled experiments designed to prove whether or how sexual orientation or gender identity might directly impact physical or mental health.

Taken together, however, the studies add to a large and growing body of evidence suggesting that LGBTQ youth are at higher risk for problems such as depression, anxiety, suicide, homelessness and substance abuse, said Dr. Stanley Ray Vance of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

Parents can be part of the problem, Vance, coauthor of an accompanying editorial, said by email. Some parents may reject their child’s sexuality or gender identity and this may increase the chance of abuse, and other parents may try to change their child out of concern that life might be easier if a kid was heterosexual and gender conforming.

“It should be emphasized that LGBTQ youth are incredibly resilient, but they unfortunately face poor mental health outcomes and adversity,” Vance added. “Their childhood environment and experiences matter and reducing rejection, abuse and other adverse events could potentially make a difference.”

By Lisa Rapaport

19 April 2018 

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20 APRIL

Young victims of cyberbullying twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm, study finds

Children and young people under 25 who are victims of cyberbullying are more than twice as likely to self-harm and enact suicidal behavior, according to a new study.

The research also suggests that it is not just the victims of cyberbullying that are more vulnerable to suicidal behaviours, but the perpetrators themselves are at higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours as well.

Cyberbullying is using electronic communication to bully another, for instance by sending intimidating, threatening or unpleasant messages using social media.

The systematic review study, led by Professor Ann John at Swansea University Medical School in collaboration with researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham looked at more than 150,000 children and young people across 30 countries, over a 21-year period.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, highlighted the significant impact that cyberbullying involvement (as bullies and victims) can have on children and young people. The researchers say it shows an urgent need for effective prevention and intervention in bullying strategies.

Professor Ann John said: "Prevention of cyberbullying should be included in school anti-bullying policies, alongside broader concepts such as digital citizenship, online peer support for victims, how an electronic bystander might appropriately intervene; and more specific interventions such as how to contact mobile phone companies and internet service providers to block, educate, or identify users."

"Suicide prevention and intervention is essential within any comprehensive anti-bullying programme and should incorporate a whole-school approach to include awareness raising and training for staff and pupils."

A number of key recommendations have been made:

The study also found a strong link between being a cyber-victim and being a perpetrator. This duality was found to particularly put males at higher risk of depression and suicidal behaviours.

The researchers highlighted that these vulnerabilities should be recognised at school so that cyberbullying behaviours would be seen as an opportunity to support vulnerable young people, rather than for discipline.

It was recommended that anti-bullying programmes and protocols should address the needs of both victims and perpetrators, as possible school exclusion might contribute to an individual's sense of isolation and lead to feelings of hopelessness, often associated with suicidal behaviours in adolescents and young people.

The research also found that students who were cyber-victimised were less likely to report and seek help than those victimised by more traditional means, thus highlighting the importance for staff in schools to encourage 'help-seeking' in relation to cyberbullying.

19 April 2018

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18 APRIL

Adolescents' cooking skills strongly predict future nutritional well-being

Evidence suggests that developing cooking and food preparation skills is important for health and nutrition, yet the practice of home cooking is declining and now rarely taught in school. A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that developing cooking skills as a young adult may have long-term benefits for health and nutrition.

"The impact of developing cooking skills early in life may not be apparent until later in adulthood when individuals have more opportunity and responsibility for meal preparation," said lead author Jennifer Utter, PhD, MPH, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand. "The strength of this study is the large, population-based sample size followed over a period of 10 years to explore the impact of perceived cooking skills on later nutritional well-being."

Data were collected as part of the Project Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults longitudinal study conducted in Minneapolis-Saint Paul area schools. Participants reported on adequacy of cooking skills in 2002-2003 when they were 18 to 23 years old. Data was then collected in 2015-2016 on nutrition-related outcomes when participants were 30 to 35 years old. Questions assessed the perceived adequacy of cooking skills, how often they prepared a meal that included vegetables, how often they ate meals as a family, and how often they ate at a fast food restaurant.

Most participants perceived their cooking skills to be adequate at age 18 – 23, with approximately one quarter of adults reporting their cooking skills to be very adequate. There were no differences in perceived cooking skills by sex, race or ethnicity, educational attainment, or age. Perceived adequacy of cooking skills predicted multiple indicators of nutrition outcomes later in adulthood including greater odds of preparing a meal with vegetables most days and less frequent consumption of fast food. If those who perceived their cooking skills as adequate had families, they ate more frequent family meals, less frequent fast food meals, and had fewer barriers to food preparation.

"Opportunities to develop cooking skills by adolescents may result in long-term benefits for nutritional well-being," said Dr. Utter. "Families, health and nutrition professionals, educators, community agencies, and funders can continue to invest in home economics and cooking education knowing that the benefits may not be fully realized until young adults develop more autonomy and live independently."

17 April 2018

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16 APRIL

USA: Building resiliency by promoting protective factors

Protective factors are positive conditions in families and communities that strengthen all families and increase their health and well-being. The Center for the Study of Social Policy Strengthening Families Approach names the following five protective factors: Parental resilience, social connections, concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children. Research studies support the idea that when these protective factors are solid in a family, the likelihood of child abuse and neglect decreases. Furthermore, research shows that these protective factors are promotive factors that build family strengths and environments and encourage the highest child and youth development. For each protective factor below, the focus is on empowering parents by helping them identify and build on their own strengths and selecting the best strategies to help them expand their parenting ability.

Parental resilience – resilience is the ability to bounce back from various challenges that surface in every family’s life. Examples of resiliency are problem solving skills and maintaining trusting relationships including with your own child, as well as recognizing the signs of stress and knowing how to ask for help when necessary.

Social connections – friends, family members, neighbors and community members nurture emotional support, listen to you as you process and solve problems and give solid assistance to parents. Take the time to build trust when working with those who have been most affected by adverse childhood experiences. Adverse childhood experiences often can be most effective to slow down and focus on relationship building before you can speed up and work on action steps and strategies. Supportive networks are vital to parents and also offer opportunities for people to give back. This is an important aspect of self-esteem as well as a benefit for the community. Isolated families may need additional assistance in reaching out to develop positive relationships.

Concrete support in times of need – meeting basic needs like food, clothing, shelter and health care is essential for families to thrive. Similarly, when families encounter a crisis such as domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse, sufficient services and supportive networks need to be in place to create stability, treatment and assistance for family members in crisis.

Knowledge of parenting and child development – evidence-based research on best practices in parenting and child development at every age affords parents in seeing their child and youth in a positive light as well as promote their healthy development. Early Childhood Family Educator classes, prenatal and postpartum home visitation,and other parenting classes such as Nurtured Heart and Love and Logic provide an opportunity to build a foundation for learning and development. Studies also show information is most effective when it comes at the exact time parents need it to understand their child. Parents who experienced severe discipline or other adverse childhood experiences may need additional assistance to change the parenting patterns they learned as children.

Social and emotional competence of children – a child or youth’s ability to engage positively with others, self-regulate their behavior and effectively communicate their feelings has a positive impact on their family, peers and other adults. Challenging behaviors or delayed development, generates excess stress for families. Early identification and assistance for both parents and child can keep development on track. Building attachment through nurturing a close bond helps parents to better understand, respond to and communicate with their child.

By Sandy Block-Hansen

12 April 2018

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13 APRIL

100 questions to ask your teen other than “How was school?"

As children enter adolescence and spend more time away with friends or on their own, it easy for parents to feel a bit disconnected. When we do get a chance to interact, this gap can make conversations awkward and difficult to start, leading to old standby questions like “How was school?” that rarely get meaningful conversations started.

With some help from my oldest son, Jackson Rettew, and his classmates at the Mount Mansfield Union High School in Jericho, Vermont, here are a list of 100 alternate questions that parents might consider asking their teenage kids. We tried to avoid those that might come up on college essays or job interviews. Some are serious, others are light-hearted. And, of course, many may not be appropriate or apply to your own family. Nonetheless, here they are for your consideration, presented in no particular order. We hope at least some might be useful to try.

What are the different cliques or social groups in your school and which one, if any, are you in?
Do you have a celebrity crush?
What is the coolest app that I don’t have on my phone?
What is the most embarrassing thing that I do?
Who do you eat lunch with at school?
How would you describe my parenting style?
What bands are you listening to these days?
Can you play me one of their best songs?
Who would you say is your best friend right now?
Where would be an awesome place to go for a family vacation?
What do you think of President Trump?
What do you think of my hair style?
Did I ever tell you about how I met your (mother, father)?
Who is your favorite and least favorite teacher this year?
Which shows are you watching right now?
Any of those shows you’d recommend for me?
Do you think aliens exist?
How male or female do you feel inside as you get older?
Is there anything you would like to learn how to do?
Have there been any books that you had to read this year that you really liked?
How would you describe your personality?
How would you describe my personality (or the other parent)?
Is bullying a problem at your school?
Is drug and alcohol use a big thing at your school?
What is the one thing you don’t know about me that you want to know?
What are some of the first things that you remember?
Which holidays do you really like and why?
Which holiday do you wish never existed?
What look are your going for when you get dressed?
How long do you want to live?
What would you say were the most important moments of your life so far?
What would you wish I might do differently as a parent?
If you could someday drive any car or truck you want, what would it be?
Do you believe in God?
What would you say are your all-time favorite movies so far?
What do you wish you were more motivated to do?
When you get older, will you vote as a republican, democrat, or independent?
Are there any quotes from movies, songs, or books that you’ve heard and really like?
Are there parts of your body that you really like or dislike?
Do you think our family has enough money?
What were the most memorable family trips we’ve taken so far?
Which specific memories stand out from them?
What do you do and think when you see a homeless person?
Do you know anyone who you would say has an ideal marriage or relationship?
How do you think the world will eventually end?
What was the funniest thing that happened today?
What is the best and worst food that your school cafeteria serves?
Do you ever feel jealous about the family of any of your friends?
Which teacher at our school is the scariest?
Do you think we treat you and your siblings fairly?
Can you teach me how to text faster?
Are there any celebrities that people say you look like?
Which songs have been stuck in your head?
What bumper stickers have you seen that you really like?
Do you think millennials are really that different from other generations?
What are the best and worst things about having a smartphone?
What do you like to watch on YouTube?
Do you like your voice?
Do you think you want to get married one day?
How many kids, if any, do you think you might want some day?
What kind of a parent do you think you will be?
If we could move to a different neighborhood or part of town, would you want to go?
How gross are your school bathrooms?
What thing about our house/apartment irritates you the most?
Are you looking forward to being an adult?
If you were allowed to get a tattoo, what would you get?
Do you think adults praise kids too much or not enough?
Do all these school shootings in the news make you feel unsafe at school?
What’s the one thing adults don’t get about teenagers?
What is your favorite snack food?
What should be the name of your generation?
What do you think is the best number of children to have?
If you wanted to have kids, what would you want to name them?
Are you more of a dog or cat person?
How’s your love life?
Do you have any enemies?
What would you do with a million (or billion) dollars?
Do you think teens have it easier or tougher compared to my generation?
What was the best part of your day today?
What was the worst part of your day today?
Where’s the first place you would want to go after getting your driver’s license?
Do you agree with the current legal age for drinking, smoking, and voting?
Did I ever tell you about my prom experiences?
Are you currently trying to lose or gain weight right now?
If two people like each other romantically, do you think someone still should ask before trying to kiss them?
How tall would you like to be, if you could choose?
Do kids your age still care about professional sports?
What do you think has been the hardest thing you have ever done?
What do you think the fourth dimension is?
What is the best (non-profanity) comeback to say to a bully?
Is it more awkward to address adults as Mr./Ms. or to use their first names?
If we had more money, how would you use it?
Do you wish we has pushed you harder or less hard to keep doing __________?
Are you satisfied with the number of friends that you have and quality of those friendships?
Do you think marijuana should be legal for people after a certain age?
If you had to be a mythical creature, what would you be?
What could I do to help you feel more supported?
What are the big things being talked about at school?
What were some of best holiday or birthday presents you ever received?
100. What’s a fun thing that we could do together?

By David Rettew

6 April 2018 

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11 APRIL

USA

Life-threatening allergic reactions rising in children

Anaphylaxis is the scary end of allergy, the kind of reaction that can kill. It can happen almost immediately after the exposure – being stung by the bee, eating the peanut – and it can move fast. In anaphylaxis, your immune system turns against you with a vengeance, revs up and releases histamines and other chemicals that set off a range of dangerous physiological changes.

Your airways squeeze tighter, so it’s harder to breathe – especially dangerous in children, who start with smaller airways. Your lips and tongue and throat can swell. Your blood pressure can drop until you’re in shock. You can also get hives, you can develop nausea and vomiting, all possible clues to the advent of anaphylaxis.

A new report from Blue Cross Blue Shield looked at allergy diagnoses and at emergency room visits for anaphylaxis from 2010 to 2016 among their subscribers, who include 9.6 million children 18 and under all over the country. The report showed an increase in the incidence of children being diagnosed as “at risk” for anaphylaxis over the course of those seven years. And correspondingly, the rate of emergency room visits for anaphylaxis more than doubled, to 3.5 visits per 10,000 children in 2016 from 1.4 in 2010.

Of those emergency room visits, 47 percent were attributed to specific food allergies, largely peanuts and tree nuts and seeds. The other 53 percent were attributed either to unknown foods or “to other unspecified causes.” (Because the study was done by examining insurance claims, the information is conveyed by billing codes; some codes specify “anaphylactic reaction due to shellfish,” for example, but others just say, “anaphylactic shock, unspecified.”)

Dr. Trent Haywood, the chief medical officer of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, said that one reason for doing the study was “to make parents aware before the situation occurs.” Alerting parents seemed particularly crucial, he said, because of the recent controversy about the high cost of EpiPens, the epinephrine autoinjectors commonly prescribed for children at risk, so they have emergency treatment available at home and at school – and wherever they go.

Regardless of cost or controversy, “What we don’t want anyone to do is say, because the cost is going up, maybe be less vigilant,” Dr. Haywood said. “Because we’re seeing a doubling of the incidence, it’s even more important you’re vigilant on this particular issue.”

Guidelines for parents were published in March in JAMA. It’s possible that the increased incidence of emergency room visits may in part be good news; parents may be watching more closely, noting early signs of possible anaphylaxis, using their EpiPens (anyone who uses one needs to be seen immediately in an emergency room, in case the reaction recurs or continues).

“Severe reactions can happen at any time,” said Dr. Anna Volerman, an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at University of Chicago Medicine who was the lead author of an article summarizing current clinical guidelines for peanut allergy prevention, also published in JAMA in March. Because parents generally make changes in the home to keep the risky substances away from the child, “most allergic reactions that are severe happen outside of the household,” she said.

That means that parents have to make sure there is an awareness of the allergy – and of how to react – wherever the child spends time, from school to after school activities and sports. And it’s also important, she said to make sure that the child has “a really strong understanding of the allergy, and feels comfortable speaking up and saying, ‘I’m allergic to X, is there any X in this food item.’”

Children with allergies or asthma – problems which also represent revved-up immune systems – are at higher risk to have anaphylaxis, and a child who has had anaphylaxis in the past, even a comparatively mild bout, is at higher risk to have it again, and perhaps more severely.

“I do recommend an EpiPen for anybody who has a history of anaphylaxis or severe reaction or has a history of significant food allergy,” Dr. Volerman said. When she prescribes one, she goes over the potential signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction. “I talk about lip swelling, hives in combination with nausea or coughing, or throat discomfort, tongue swelling, throat tightening, trouble breathing, dizziness, lightheadedness.”

And it’s most important that it be with the child, and be used if necessary – or even if possibly necessary. She tells parents: “If you think about using an EpiPen, go ahead and use it if you notice any of these signs and symptoms.”

For children who have allergies, parents and teachers – and the children themselves – need to be vigilant and quick to act when it comes to anaphylaxis; this is a diagnosis that it is much better to overcall than undercall. And many of the children in the Blue Cross Blue Shield survey had not previously been given diagnoses of allergies, Dr. Haywood said. So anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction which can be effectively treated if you treat it promptly, is also a diagnosis that everyone should be ready to recognize, history of allergy or not.

By Perri Klass

9 April 2018 

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9 APRIL

One trait that predicts addiction

Adolescents who lack patience are more likely to experiment with and use drugs. Impulsive individuals typically choose the smaller, faster reward more often than the larger, delayed reward. This is because of its distance in time relative to an immediacy of the smaller reward. Overcoming this tendency is an important prevention tool, such as learning to tolerate delay, or an ability to wait to get what you want. This learning could potentially generalize to other aspects of everyday life situations involving choices with long-term consequences (e.g., education and healthy living).

Impulsivity can be described as rapid, unplanned reactions to internal or external provocations with little consideration of the consequences. Impulsivity often refers to problematic behavior (Madden and Bickle, 2010). For example, a person is described as impulsive when he or she repeatedly buy things on impulse without consideration of the ability to pay for it. The choice may be satisfying now but potentially detrimental in the long run.

A failure to resist impulse is considered as an important obstacle to a more rational long-term strategy for success. We all can relate to this weakness. Those of us who have resolved to eat healthy food only to succumb to temptation when seeing an unexpected box of Girl Scout cookies in the house. We all behave impulsively at one time or another, but some are too impulsive.

The impulsive behavior might help drug abuse by reducing the weight given to its negative long-term consequences. The main problem with most addictive behaviors is that the costs (adverse consequences) occur in the future, whereas the pleasures from them occur in the present. The choice to consume a substance of abuse presumably results in an immediate rush or removal of withdrawal symptoms.

Impulsivity and sensation-seeking are generally elevated in adolescence, but decrease as the life span progresses (Green et al., 1999). Specifically, discounting (value less) of delayed rewards is at its highest levels during adolescence (around ages of 12) and levels off while moving toward adulthood (age of 20 years).

Young people think of their future selves in the same way that they think of strangers. So they are less concerned about their future well-being. This explains why adolescence and early adulthood are the times when someone is most likely to become addicted (Sapolsky, 2017).

An important characteristic of adolescent risk-taking is the influence of emotions. Those activities they enjoy tend to be seen as less risky than those that are actually safer but less emotionally pleasant. The more favorable the feeling attached to an option, the less risk is associated with it. This decision calculus encourages the risk-taking behavior. It also makes young adults subject to certain biases of judgment controlled by emotional reactions (Slovic, et al., 2002).

Impulsivity is also influenced by other events (especially when impulsive behavior is not a personality trait). These include economic conditions, life expectancy, or the reliability of the local environment. Under these conditions, individuals may learn that living for the moment and distrusting the future is a better strategy. Thus, a lifetime of learning not to trust others to deliver what they promise in the future may play a role in choices over time. And the tendency to take whatever is immediately available may play an important role in the decision to use drugs.

Research studies have identified impulsive personality as a significant predictor for the development of addictive behaviors (Argyriou et al., 2018). For example, problem drinking in undergraduates is significantly related to impaired impulse control and sensation-seeking. Highly impulsive individuals are more sensitive to the rewarding effects of drugs. With the immediate thrills of drugs, only moments away outweigh the distant value of having enough money to pay rent at the end of the month.

Furthermore, repetitive drug uses contribute to long-lasting changes in impulsivity. Chronic or acute drug use changes the brain’s chemistry, particularly in regions that form the brain’s valuation system. The delay intolerance makes their road to recovery a difficult journey, filled with good intentions and frequent relapses.

In sum, the personality trait of impulsivity makes individuals more vulnerable to substance use, and that this trait may exist prior to substance use. Thus, screening for impulsivity during this period may help identify high-risk individuals for addictions.

Reorienting an individual away from immediate gratification and toward making more future-oriented decisions is a logical step in promoting self-control. For example, evidence shows that nurturing, responsive parent-youth relations that include limit setting and monitoring deter risky behavior (Madkour et al., 2017). As personal autonomy increases in high school, youths’ unsupervised interactions with peers are influenced by the sense of personal worth and self-respect internalized from past parental interactions.

By Shahram Heshmat

6 April 2018 

References

Argyriou E, Um M, Carron C, Cyders MA (2018). Age and impulsive behavior in drug addiction: A review of past research and future directions. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. Jan;164:106-117.

Green, L., Myerson, J., & Ostaszewski, P. (1999). Discounting of delayed rewards across the life span: Age differences in individual discounting functions. Behavioural Processes, 46, 89–96.

Madden JG, Bickle KW (2010) Impulsivity: The Behavioral and Neurological Science of Discounting. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

Madkour AS, Clum G, Miles TT, et al. Parental influences on heavy episodic drinking development in the transition to early adulthood. J Adolesc Health 2017;61:147e54

Sapolsky RM (2017) Behave: Biology of humans at our best and worst. New York: Penguin Press.

Slovic, P. Finucane, M., Peters, E., & MacGregor, D.G. (2002). “The affect heuristic” in T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, and D. Kahneman (eds.) Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment. New York: Cambridge University University, pp. 397-420.

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5 APRIL

USA

Common Sense report highlights potential impact of virtual reality on children's development 

Common Sense, the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology, released a new report today on the potential impact of virtual reality on kids' cognitive, social, and physical well-being, including VR's ability to shape the perspectives of young minds. The report includes an up-to-date synthesis of existing VR research, as well as a new survey conducted in collaboration with SurveyMonkey on top parent concerns, health effects, and VR as a tool for inspiring empathy in young people.

Given the emerging popularity of VR technology, Common Sense set out to understand the effects of children's use of immersive VR on their still-developing brains, as well as parental attitudes and concerns. The report, 'Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR', finds that most parents have some concerns about VR and that leading experts are advocating for moderation, supervision, and additional research as VR becomes increasingly prevalent in entertainment, education, and health care.

Key findings from the report include:

• One in five U.S. parents today reports living in a household with VR, though many parents (65 percent) say they are not planning to buy a VR device.
• VR is likely to have powerful effects on children because it can provoke a response to virtual experiences similar to a response to actual experiences.
• Characters in VR may be especially influential on young children, even more so than characters on TV or computers. This can be good or bad depending on the influence.
• Overall, 62 percent of parents believe that VR will provide educational experiences for their children, and that number is higher (84 percent) among parents whose children are already using VR.
• Sixty percent of parents say they are at least "somewhat concerned" that their children will experience negative health effects while using VR.
• Some parents report that kids are already experiencing health issues, including 13 percent who have bumped into something; eleven percent who have experienced dizziness; ten percent who have had headaches; and eight percent who have had eyestrain.
• VR can potentially be an effective tool for encouraging empathy among children for people who are different from them, although parents are skeptical: Thirty-eight percent of all parents think VR will help children empathize with different people. This number increases to 56 percent for parents of VR-using 8- to 17-year olds.

"VR is an exciting new technology that is already showing promise in teaching children important life skills such as empathy and perspective," said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense. "There is still a lot to learn about VR, and we have a responsibility to parents and educators to understand how it impacts child development so they can minimize the potentially negative effects while maximizing the positives. As advocates and researchers, we have a unique opportunity to stay on top of this emerging technology and influence its development to help kids learn, achieve better health outcomes, and enhance their entertainment."

The report highlights some promising opportunities for parents and educators to be aware of. For example, for older children beginning to develop the ability to understand the perspectives of others, VR could help diminish racial bias and encourage empathy. And while it is important to be aware that young children who use VR may have difficulty distinguishing between virtual experiences and real experiences, they also could benefit by developing prosocial behaviors as a result of VR experiences with characters.

In addition to the learning and educational impact of VR, the report highlights other potential positive and negative health impacts, including, on the negative side, sensory and vision issues, aggressive behavior, and escapism and distraction, and, on the positive side, pain management and rehabilitation.

Jeremy Bailenson, the head of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, added, "While VR research is limited, parental concerns about safety are legitimate, and there are some simple things they can do now to help protect their kids, from physical protections, like setting time limits and creating a safe space for kids to sit down and experience VR, to being aware of content and talking to kids about what they are experiencing, including the difference between real and virtual characters."

4 April 2018

Source: Common Sense

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3 APRIL

New book sheds light on youth in Canada

Brock University professor Rebecca Raby is not surprised that young people across the U.S. are carrying out demonstrations to protest gun violence and remember the victims of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

As one of the co-editors of the recently published volume, The Sociology of Childhood and Youth in Canada, Raby, a Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Studies, had access to the most recent research into youth activism and engagement.

“There are many, many examples of young people today mobilizing around social issues, especially those that connect to their high schools,” says Raby. “To do so, they are activating social media in a way that blurs distinctions between online and offline worlds.”

The Sociology of Childhood and Youth in Canada, co-edited by Xiaobei Chen, Rebecca Raby, and Patrizia Albanese, was published this winter by Canadian Scholars’ Press.

She further notes that while some adults express concerns that young people are disengaging from formal politics, “in other arenas, we can see young people engaging directly with political questions.”

The book examines several examples of youth confronting issues that are important to them, from young people creating gay-straight alliances at their schools, to racialized youth in Toronto engaging in citizenship as a practice, to the topic of Raby’s own chapter, co-authored with Associate Professor Shauna Pomerantz, on dress code protests between 2000 and 2016.

“Especially in 2014 and 2015, there was a growing concern about how dress codes and their enforcement largely police and shame girls around sexuality,” Raby says. “The students quoted about the protests in the Canadian press articulated clear, feminist politics about gendered inequalities in how dress codes are presented and enforced.”

The backlash against young people using their voices is also explored in the book.

“Adults sometimes conceptualize young people in ways that discount their views and participation, framing them as incompetent, immature and naïve,” says Raby. “But many researchers are challenging this way of thinking about children and youth, noting the value of listening to young people’s views, highlighting their competencies and reminding us that they have a right to say in decision-making about them, outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The book also highlights the value of conducting research with, rather than on, children.

“The collection emphasizes what it means to think about children’s rights, the importance of attending to the lived experience of diverse children, including children with disabilities, and how young people are attempting to change the world around them for the better,” says Raby.

In addition to looking at youth citizenship and social justice, The Sociology of Childhood and Youth in Canada also includes chapters on a range of topics, from ethnography and creative visual methods in research with children, to representations of race and gender in children’s books, to how young people engage with consumer culture, to settler colonialism and Indigenous children in Canada.

Several researchers and graduate students from Brock’s Department of Child and Youth Studies and the MA in Social Justice and Equity Studies, have work featured in the book, alongside scholars from across the country who hope to expand this under-represented field of research in Canada.

“The sociology of childhood has grown into a robust field elsewhere, most notably in England, Scandinavia and Australia, but in Canada the scope of research into the sociology of childhood has been much more scarce, with a focus on the family, youth subcultures or youth at risk,” says Raby.

“Generally speaking, there is less focus on children’s rights in Canada, perhaps because we are so influenced by the U.S. — the only nation that still has not signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The new volume will help draw attention to the growth in research and scholarship in the field.

By Amanda Bishop

23 March 2018 

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